#Kelvyn Park: named in honor of the Irish-Scot celebrity scientist William Thomson, Lord Kelvin (1824-1907)

Chicago’s Kelvyn Park community is a remarkable intact early twentieth century residential neighborhood on Chicago’s Northwest Side that stands out for its distinct architecture and planning.
Jane’s Walk Leaders John Cramer and Nate Lielasus led a very successful Walk in Logan Square in 2015, and have returned to lead a Walk of Kelvyn Park  there on Saturday May 7 at 11AM.  You can register for the Walk here.   They’ve extensively researched the neighborhood and describe it this way:

Nestled into a narrow strait between large manufacturing facilities and two major railroads, Kelvyn Park’s planners tried to bring nature back to this industrial setting with several blocks of wide landscaped boulevards, first planned in the 1870s but not completed until the 1910s with the construction of a new city park. In the blocks around Kelvyn Park are hundreds of 1910s and 1920s single-family bungalows and apartment buildings built to house Chicago’s growing middle class.

 

Wrightwood Boulevard

Wrightwood Boulevard

Kelvyn Park is located at the north end of Chicago’s Hermosa community, a railroad suburb founded in the 1880s. First named Garfield, Illinois, after the assassinated President James A. Garfield, in the mid-1880s the community’s planners rechristened their new settlement after the Spanish word for “beautiful” — Hermosa. This working neighborhood continued to grow after it was annexed by the City of Chicago in 1889 and as major industrial facilities were built along the area’s two largest rail arteries — the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad to the east and the Chicago & North Western Railroad to the west. The factories and new workers’ cottages along these two railroads attracted families of old and new Chicagoans, most of Scandinavian, German, Italian, Polish, and Irish ancestry.

 

Hemmed in by the two raised rail lines, the narrow north end of the Hermosa neighborhood was settled in the 1880s by Scottish immigrants who named their prairie home Kelvyn Grove in honor of the Irish-Scot celebrity scientist William Thomson, Lord Kelvin (1824-1907). A community of large suburban villas was planned for this site in the early 1870s by former Chicago city comptroller Samuel S. Hayes (1820-1880) but construction stalled after increasing freight traffic along the Chicago & North Western Railroad ended hopes for a passenger rail stop.

Forty years after this failed suburban effort, Samuel Hayes’ 1873 plan for generous lots and a 200-foot wide Wrightwood Boulevard was the basis for a new Kelvyn Grove residential community constructed between 1916 and 1926. This intact collection of fifty single-family bungalows, most designed by Chicago architect Joseph Klafter, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2004 as the Wrightwood Bungalow Historic District.

Kelvyn Park Bungalows

Kelvyn Park Bungalows

The city park known as Kelvyn Park, named after the earlier Scottish community, was laid out at Hermosa’s growing north end by the American Park Builders, an urban planning firm headed by Myron West (1880-1960) who had been superintendent of Chicago’s Lincoln Park.

 

Kelvyn Park was one of dozens of new small parks planned for the city’s growing residential neighborhoods.

Unlike Chicago’s system of large nineteenth century parks which were largely designed for aesthetic beauty, Chicago’s new small parks including Kelvyn Park were built as working parks for working Chicagoans, with sports fields and fieldhouses with gymnasiums, modern bathing facilities, classrooms, and even public welfare offices. Kelvyn Park’s Georgian Revival style fieldhouse, designed by Chicago architect Walter Ahlschlager (1887-1965) and completed in 1928, also included a large upstairs auditorium for public performances and gatherings.

Kelvyn Park Fieldhouse

Kelvyn Park Fieldhouse

Hermosa’s new Kelvyn Park development attracted thousands of new residents in the 1910s and 1920s. Large institutional structures built along Kostner Avenue, including the Beaux Arts style Kelvyn Park School (completed 1916), the Kelvyn Park Masonic Temple ( completed 1926), the Kelvyn Park Presbyterian Community Church (completed 1927), and St. Stephen’s English Lutheran Church (completed 1928), demonstrate the architectural and cultural diversity that made this a vibrant early twentieth century neighborhood.

Kelvyn Park High School_credit Flickr

Kelvyn Park High School_credit Flickr

 

Kelvyn Park Masonic Temple

Kelvyn Park Masonic Temple

St Stephens Lutheran Church

St Stephens Lutheran Church

Come join us as we explore the under-appreciated Kelvyn Park neighborhood on Saturday May 7 at 11AM.  You can register for the Walk here!

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